Our democracy is grinding to a halt from the corrupting influence of money, not honest differences in ideology or political views. Big money is behind all of our major stumbling blocks.

Big business is not creating jobs because it can make huge profits without them. Global robber barons don’t need an educated, employed, middle-class America to make their billions. They keep transactions too complicated to understand, regulations and taxes too weak to restrict them and their businesses too big to fail.

America is always at war somewhere, not just because of national defense or ideology but excessive profits of a military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us against.

Our health care system was developed to provide corporate profits, not health care. It is far more expensive than that of other developed countries because of lobbyists from insurance and pharmaceutical companies. They don’t want us to know that the single-payer, Medicare system is best by far.

Social Security is not insolvent, doesn’t increase the deficit and is weakened only because the fund was raided to pay for other programs. Privatization would only boost industry profits at our expense.

Tax laws are grossly unfair, too complicated and favor the rich, but they won’t be reformed anytime soon because they are written by corporate accountants, lawyers and lobbyists who benefit from the status quo.

We can’t solve our education problems because real solutions are not quick political fixes but complex, expensive and long-range. Billionaires no longer need educated American consumers, voters and workers to make their money. They make more by keeping the public ignorant and poor.

We can’t require business practices that protect our environment and natural resources because the rules are written by lobbyists from coal, gas and big oil. They protect their obscene, record-breaking profits at our expense.

The real opponents of gun control are makers and distributors of profitable guns and ammo. Wayne LaPierre does not represent the National Rifle Association majority, which favors background checks. He is a straw man sent to divert attention from the industry by stirring up ideological controversy.

The news media is not the guardian of truth, which is often too complicated, time-consuming, expensive and boring. They are in business to make money, through paid advertising and sensationalism. “Balanced” reporting of talking heads is not fact-finding journalism that produces an informed public.

Most corruption has been in Washington, where the money is, with state and local governments inheriting the loss of federal dollars. Now power brokers realize the key to influencing the national agenda is control at state and local levels — not only of who gets elected but who gets to vote.

Phony political crises hyped by news media are a farce to distract us from important, difficult issues not being addressed, such as jobs. A good example is Internal Revenue Services’ scrutiny of tax-exempt applications. No political group should have tax-exempt status to take huge, secret contributions, while we pay their operating expenses.

These controversies are just to keep us from understanding how bad things really are — while politicians enjoy attention, fame and fortune. The revolving door between big business and government allows the same people to remain in power, whether influencing from the outside or within. Politicians accept money to gain and keep their jobs. Even our votes aren’t sacrosanct anymore, as our will is now routinely ignored.

This cozy business-media-political partnership will continue only as long as we remain ignorant, complacent and compliant.

Here is what we can do to fix things.

• Recognize the problem as critical and get involved.

• Call out politicians and the media for false, baseless hype.

• Remove politicians driven by big money and party loyalty.

• Reject products and services from partisan advertisers.

• Support and share messages and petitions for real reform.

• Send letters to editors and congressional representatives.

• Become active in local, state and national reform groups.

• Reject voting restrictions and gerrymandered districts.

• Support reversal of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

• Demand the return of 51-vote Senate majorities.

• Support legislation to control big banks.

• Support fair incentives for business investment in America.

We have a crucial choice. We can let our country deteriorate into a plutocracy that benefits only people at the top. Or we can wrench the power back and restore our democracy of, by and for the people. We must get this country growing again for all Americans, but we’ve got to do it together, right now.

David Estey is a fine-arts painter in Belfast and a retired IRS regional manager of public affairs for five middle Atlantic states and Washington, D.C.